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"Learn English at Hilton University" - But Not if You're a Union Member at Turkey's Ankara Hilton

Posted to the IUF website 12-Mar-2004

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Hilton International is proud of its "Hilton University". Their website boasts that Hilton employees can advance themselves, their career in the company and the company itself by enrolling in relevant courses such as English.

Hilton University recently approached four employees at the company's Ankara Hilton in Turkey to offer them an English course. Senay Metin, a senior staff member in the hotel's housekeeping department, was amongst those four workers who received a warm and welcoming enrolment message. She was looking forward to improving her English in order to better interact with Hilton's many English-speaking guests.

She was accordingly shocked to learned that Hilton's senior human resource manager at the Ankara hotel had sent a curt note to the Hilton University saying, "Deactivate this person from the course". The response from the University was equally short and to the point: "It is done". Why? Because, as Senay was told directly by management, she was "too close to the union", making her a candidate for discrimination rather than an English course.

Senay is an elected union delegate of OLEYIS, one of the IUF's affiliates in Turkey, and is proud of her union work. She had recently been chosen by her union to attend a European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) course at the ILO training centre in Turin.

Speaking to IUF general secretary Ron Oswald, who visited union members at the Ankara Hilton on March 9, Senay said "I was shocked since up to now I had always had a decent relationship with human resource management at the hotel and we had always sought to solve problems together. Since the incident I have had lots of support from fellow workers all of whom have now heard what Hilton did. They are also shocked and angry and most have told me they did not think Hilton could be so childish and petty."

Oswald expressed anger at this clear act of anti-union discrimination against a long-serving worker. "If Hilton thought they would intimidate either Senay or other workers at the hotel by sending a clear message through this discriminatory action, they have badly miscalculated", said Oswald. "Workers I met unanimously said they were appalled by management's action and expressed their full support for Senay". Oswald went on to assure its members in OLEYIS that, "we will raise this matter with Hilton International at the highest level and will inform our members in Hilton operations throughout the world. Taking someone off a course might not seem like the most serious of abuses, but we cannot stand by and allow Hilton to intimidate and punish someone for exercising their fundamental right to be a union member. We will be asking for an explanation from the Company at the highest level."

"OLEYIS is about to enter into negotiations with Hilton for a new collective bargaining agreement at its two Istanbul hotels. The IUF will monitor the situation and has pledged its full support because Hilton's action in Ankara gives us little reason to believe that the company will approach these negotiations with OLEYIS in good faith."

Senay Metin with IUF general secretary at OLEYIS Ankara headquarters.